Trade bodies have hit back after the British Medical Journal accused lobbyists of killing minimum unit pricing through a “cosy” relationship with Government.

The BMJ called the consultation on MUP “a sham” and said the health lobby never stood a chance of beating the powerful drinks trade.

It used Freedom of Information requests to show that groups such as the Wine and Spirits Trade Association had several meetings with the Treasury and the Home Office during the consultation and after it had closed.

The BMJ argued pressure from these groups caused the government to scrap the decision it had previously favoured.

But WSTA chief executive Miles Beale said: “This is a fundamentally flawed report, which provides a one-sided view of the MUP debate.

“Given the lack of evidence to show that MUP would effectively tackle alcohol misuse, the government was right not to introduce the policy.”

Alcohol suppliers and Asda were also accused to cosying up to government to see the proposal axed, but Asda said it was no secret that, as a large employer, it regularly meets with government to discuss issues affecting its business and that it was glad responsible drinkers would not be punished by MUP.

Meanwhile the Federation of Wholesale Distributors, which also came under fire for helping kill off MUP, said the BMJ got it completely wrong because it in favour of the measure.

It said: “We are disappointed with a report in the British Medical Journal which implies that UK alcohol wholesalers lobbied the Government to reject a minimum unit price for alcohol.

“FWD has consistently supported MUP as it will prevent irresponsible price promotions of alcohol products, and has called for its introduction both publically and in meetings with ministers and officials.

“The BMJ refers to a meeting FWD had with Economic Secretary to the Treasury Sajid Javid in February 2013.  The agenda for that meeting was the illicit trade in alcohol, and FWD reiterated its support for a fiscal mark or duty stamp on beer products – a measure which was opposed by the alcohol industry, and which was subsequently rejected by the Treasury. The issue of MUP did not come up at the meeting.”